Saxophones, Clarinet & Flute
Six Time Grammy Nominated Saxophonist
Latin Grammy Winner 2000 "Paquito D'Rivera & Tropicana Nights",
Latin Grammy Nomination 2000 "Chico O'Farrill Orchestra & Carambola"
Grammy Nomination 2009 as Performer "A Swingin' Christmas" Tony Bennett
Grammy Nomination 2016 Good "Swing" Wenceslas" The Count Basie Orchestra)
Grammy Nomination 2017 "I Loves You Porgy/There's a Boat Leaving" Clint Holmes & Count Basie Orchestra
Grammy Nomination 2018 "All About That Basie" The Count Basie Orchestra "
Whether you heard him playing Lead Alto with The Count Basie Orchestra in venues all over the world, or playing tenor saxophone with Paquito D’Rivera or baritone saxophone with Abdullah Ibrahim or clarinet solos with The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Marshall McDonald upholds the traditions of Jazz Music created by the jazz masters. A seasoned reedman, having played 30 years in the New York City area, he is well known for his ability to play all of the saxophones and woodwinds.
“Marshall is the only player I know who has played four of the sax chairs in the Count Basie Orchestra AND all five sax chairs in the Duke Ellington Orchestra” --John Williams, Count Basie saxophone legend
Marshall was offered the baritone saxophone chair with the great Lionel Hampton in 1991, a position he quickly accepted and toured the world with Lionel, playing jazz festivals and concerts in The United States, Europe, Canada, South America and Asia. Mr. Hampton eventually asked Marshall to play both tenor sax, alto sax and clarinet solos in the band and featured him on clarinet in a small group on a TV appearance on The Conan O’Brien Show. Marshall stayed with Lionel for 10 years, also playing at his memorial at Riverside Church in 2002, with guests George H. Bush, Charlie Rangel and Wynton Marsalis.
“Marshall has that pure clarinet sound. He has that sound like the symphony guys!” Lionel Hampton
Marshall performed a concert with The Sonny Constanzo Big Band where the guest artist was none other than Paquito D’Rivera. Paquito quickly hired Marshall to play in Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra, which Mr. D’Rivera was now leading. Marshall toured and recorded with this great band on alto, tenor, soprano and baritone for 4 years. During this time he also played alto saxophone with The Illinois Jacquet Big Band, lead alto with The Charli Persip Supersound Band, tenor saxophone with The Bobby Caldwell Band in New York City, and alto saxophone with The Chico O’Farrill Orchestra. Playing with Chico O’Farrill led to a close up in the Pierce Brosnan movie, The Thomas Crown Affair during the famous ballroom dance scene, and participation in the historic jazz movie, Calle 54. In addition, Marshall was asked to play lead alto by Frank Foster and the Loud Minority Big Band, in fact Mr. Foster was band leader of the Basie band at the time, and in 1994 asked Marshall to substitute for Kenny Hing in the Basie Band playing the first tenor chair. Marshall has even played with The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and The Cab Calloway Orchestra on regular concerts in the New York area. His buddies nicknamed him "Big Band Guy"!
Marshall spent a full 18 years with The Count Basie Orchestra, and succeeded Wrecking Crew sensation, Jackie Kelso to take over the Lead Alto chair famously held by the great Marshal Royal. He first started in the band underneath lead alto player, Danny Turner, and Mr. Turner explained to him, “The style of lead playing in the Basie band was passed down from Marshal Royal to Bobby Plater and then to me.” Marshall had studied the Basie style while in music school at University of Pittsburgh, and now he was getting first hand knowledge from Danny Turner, Frank Foster, Kenny Hing and John Williams.
“Marshall has always done a GREAT job in my band!” –Charli Persip
Musicians and critics have acknowledged that Marshall is an outstanding section player on all the saxophones and a well-schooled soloist coming out of the Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins post-bop style of playing along with a mix of Johnny Hodges and Marshal Royal. Marshall began by playing clarinet at age 10, with his first years of studies on classical clarinet with Principal Clarinetist Thomas Thompson of The Pittsburgh Symphony at Carnegie-Mellon University, continuing with William Balawadjer of Carnegie-Mellon University for 6 years and for 2 years with Paris Conservatory graduate Nestor Koval at Duquesne University. In two years Marshall was performing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto. But after hearing a Louis Armstrong recording with Barney Bigard playing clarinet, he announced to his father, I want to play jazz like that, and with that he also started studying the alto saxophone and flute.
He was a biology and chemistry student at Lafayette College from 1977-79, and then began Jazz Studies from 1979-82 with Dr. Nathan Davis at The University of Pittsburgh. Marshall's father, Dr. Alonzo E. McDonald was an Associate Professor of Dentistry at the University. Dr. Davis took Marshall under his tutelage, putting him on Lead Alto with The Pitt Jazz Band, which traveled to Trinidad and Tobago, and played behind artists like Joe Williams. Marshall also learned from Geri Allen and Jothan Collins who were both in Graduate School working towards Doctorate degrees. After the move to the New York City area Mr. McDonald studied with the legendary George Coleman, who was to become one of his key teachers, helping formulating his approach to jazz solo playing. While at Lafayette, the Band Director set up a special program that Marshall could use the school van, and drive to the Poconos to study with Phil Woods protégé Mark Kirk. The desire to perfect his sound led the perpetually studious McDonald to spend two years studying the Joe Allard Method with Studio Musician Dave Tofani.
While playing lead alto as a student in the University of Pittsburgh Jazz Band directed by Nathan Davis, guest artist, the great Joe Williams from the Count Basie Orchestra, once stopped the band and said to the saxophone section, “Hold on, play your parts like this cat on lead alto is playin’. What’s your name son?” “Marshall” was the reply. “Well you got the right name!” Joe exclaimed.
“Marshall McDonald is an EXCELLENT musician. Great lead alto player and great tenor player. He is a First Class musician. I always enjoy talking to him and listening to him play.” –Vincent Herring
Marshall has played soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone with the giants of music including Tony Bennett, Milt Jackson, Nina Simone, Freddie Hubbard, Rosemary Clooney, Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Charli Persip, Gerry Mulligan, Pete Christlieb, Diane Schuur, Bill Waltrous, Ronnie Cuber, Illinois Jacquet, Doc Cheatham, Ray Brown, Art Farmer, Hank Jones, Elvin Jones, Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bobby Watson, Jon Hendricks, Geri Allen, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, Frankie Avalon, The Dells, The Temptations, Melba Moore, Wynton Marsalis, Jon Faddis, George Benson, Bob Berg, Paquito D’Rivera, Chico O’Farrill, Steve Turre, Lizz Wright, Jamie Callum, Ledisi and many others.
Performances & Recordings
The Kennedy Center
The Sydney Opera House
Royal Albert Hall
Walt Disney Concert Hall
The Hollywood Bowl
The Newport Jazz Festival
The Monterey Jazz Festival
The Montreal Jazz Festival
The Toronto Jazz Festival
The Nice Jazz Festival
The JVC Jazz Festival
The Playboy Jazz Festival
Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival
Blue Note New York
Blue Note Tokyo
Blue Note Milan
Cotton Club New York
Cotton Club Tokyo
Birdland New York City
Small’s Jazz Club New York
Iridium Jazz Club New York
Smoke Jazz Club New York
Yoshi’s Jazz Club Oakland
2020 Ella 100: Live at the Apollo! Count Basie Orchestra
2019 The Balance Abdullah Ibrahim
2018 All About That Basie Count Basie Orchestra
2015 A Very Swingin' Basie Christmas! Count Basie
2012 Standardize Marshall McDonald
2008 A Swingin' Christmas Tony Bennett
2007 Basie Is Back (Live Japan)
2006 Ray Sings, Basie Swings Ray Charles
2006 It's a Good Thing Jamie Davis
2003 90th Birthday Celebration Lionel Hampton
2001 Calle 54 [Music from the Motion Picture]
2000 Carambola Chico O'Farrill
1999 Tropicana Nights Paquito D'Rivera
1999 The Heart of a Legend Chico O'Farrill
1998 Ear Candy Nancie Banks Big Band
1998 Live at John Anson Ford Lionel Hampton
1997 Live at MCG Paquito D'Rivera
1997 Latin Jazz Highlights: Messidor's Finest, Vol. 5
1994 Bloodlines Michael Hill's Blues Mob
1993 A Night in Englewood Paquito D'Rivera
1992 Steel Trap Jesse Austin Band
Latin Jazz Nascente
Honeysuckle Rose (live) Ledisi
G.W.B. Shuffle Mike Ponella